“Wait, What?”: Our Team’s Thoughts on the Future of Design

What is the future of design? Our designer, Ivan Colic, has been thinking about this topic for some time, and shared his thoughts with us.

Future of Work

What is the future of design?

One of our designers, Ivan Colic, has been thinking about this topic for a while, and shared his thoughts with us in a recent “Wait, what?” team session, where we get together once a week to talk about anything, and everything.

With the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI), it’s easy to feel threatened by automation, as theoretically, many simple design tasks can be carried out by machines, if programmed correctly, or sophisticatedly enough.

To dig a bit deeper into this topic, Ivan shared some examples with us to show how AI has been used in the design world, both to successful, and detrimental, effect:

The Future of Design #1: The Next Rembrant

What makes a painting famous, or special? Is it the emotion that went into the brushstrokes, the feeling it evokes, and the overall human element? Or is it just a number of simple criteria that anyone else can copy?

These questions aren’t easy to answer, but to try, The Next Rembrant project trained a machine to copy the exact painting techniques of famous Dutch painter Rembrant van Rijn.

In a collaborative project between Microsoft, Ing, Tu Delft and Mauritshuis, the team created a new Rembrant painting by digitally scanning and capturing details from all of Rembrant’s paintings, and then combining these to programme a machine to paint it, which brought together all the most common elements of Rembrant’s techniques through deep learning.

These elements then defined what was programmed into the AI functionality, including a range of measurements including the distance between eyes and ears, based on the many faces in Rembrant’s portraits.

It’s incredible to think this is possible, especially when you see the final result, and realise how similar it looks to the artist’s other paintings. In fact, to the untrained eye, it might not look different at all.

While many of our team argue that a machine can never take away from the human element in art, this project is an interesting insight into what is possible, and what can be created with AI.



The Future of Design #2: The Grid

When the concept of The Grid was launched, it scared designers. A site that could create an automated website without much human involvement? That would take away the livelihoods of many talented designers, it was thought.

However, the result wasn’t as impressive as everyone thought. According to this article on Designer News, and Ivan’s experience of following the story, none of the websites were as good as everyone had expected. All the elements were there, but the sites lacked a sense of cohesion, with the look of something that wasn’t correctly formatted or translated onto a webpage.

Designers sighed a breath of relief. While the essential elements were there, the sites also lacked a sense of style, which shows that although a machine can be trained to output certain things in theory, in reality, it can’t be programmed to do it with finesse.


Things seem to have changed though, even despite concerns with the late launch of the product after a crowdfunding campaign, the current website suggests that everything is going smoothly with the intended rollout. Although, it has to be said, some of the links in featured tweets don’t really seem to match up to what is being advertised.



Like The Next Rembrant, The Grid uses AI to create websites with certain elements, based on tools like facial recognition in photographs to makes sure that they aren’t cropped out and sliders to create a combination of pixels and text to create a look and feel that you like, and which you can also update later.

It seems to be a very helpful tool, but how good are the websites, really? Perhaps it depends on your taste, but it feels like a fully fleshed out website might still be something that a designer can do better.

The Future of Design #3: What does the Future Hold?

Even though AI might not truly be able to capture the human element inherent in design, the possibilities are endless if we start to think about what the potential applications of machine and deep learning could be. Will AI take over from designers? It doesn’t appear that this is going to happen anytime soon, especially given how much work it took behind the scenes to paint one picture, and limitations of AI web design.

But really, we’re only thinking about how AI can do what we’re already doing, and know how to do. How will the entire design industry change with the tools we’re developing? If AI could potentially take over a designer’s job as we know it now, would that even be relevant if the concept of design changes?

In an article about the future of design, designers from companies all over the world share what they think will happen to design in the future. Just some of the important roles designers could fulfil in the future include:

  • Augmented reality designers: designers will need to have the skills to recreate an authentic spatial experience.
  • Avatar programmers: designers will need to be able to portray celebrities in their best virtual light.
  • Drone experience designers: how do you manage a customer’s experience with a drone? (e.g. Amazon)
  • Cybernetic directors: designers will need to manage highly personalised brand communication with bots.
  • Concierge services: designers will need to optimise the way big data is analysed, and make sure they’re catering to their VIPs.

What are your thoughts on the future of design? Have you used an AI application to design anything? Let us know in the comments below.

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